Creative Ways to a Second Career

Many people long to do something different. They dream about starting a new career but can't get past the common hurdles: how to leverage what they know into what they love and how to live on less, as a new career often means a pay cut.

This is what Morgan Jensen was faced with. As a chiropractor for the past 20 years she had built a successful practice. While she loved treating patients, her profession didn't allow her to use her creative talents. She longed to be a product designer, "I was always looking at things and thinking what else could this be or do?"

Then one day her passions intersected, "It was my most challenging patients that helped me realize there was a way to combine my love of design with my practice." After treating hundreds of women with neck and shoulder problems due to the way they hiked up their shoulder to carry their bags, Jensen created an ergonomic and, importantly, stylish backpack. She was thrilled with the prospect of launching her bag and new career. Then the realization hit, "I was 55, had no formal design training or connections in the fashion industry, so how was I going to get this bag to market?" That's when she decided to put her creation, "the City Bag", to the test on the crowd funding site, Kickstarter.

The beauty of crowd funding is that you can get great exposure and feedback for your creative project and raise the necessary money to bring it to market. With 10 days to go, Jensen is almost half way to her $20,000 goal. Even if she doesn't reach it, the response to her design has given her the confidence to switch careers, "The fact that so many people want the bag is validating. I feel like I can call myself a designer now".

Aimee Gilbreath had a similar situation, as her profession and passion seemed miles apart. After getting an MBA from Stanford she joined the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) as a consultant. Soon, airports and hotel rooms took the place of home. With a hectic travel schedule and demanding job, Aimee couldn't have a pet, which was especially tough, having grown up with cats, dogs, horses and pigs. That's when she decided to volunteer at a local pet adoption center. Unfortunately, the way the organization was run, it wasn't a fit, "I wanted to feel like I was making a difference and this place was more focused on politics than getting animals adopted". So she left.

A few months later she was at the office late one night thumbing through the Harvard Business Review when she spotted an ad. It was a job posting for an Executive Director at a pet adoption center, Found Animals. This organization wanted someone with business building skills. Aimee immediately called the recruiter and was thrilled to learn that Found Animals shared her vision for what an adoption center should be. They wanted to run it as a business for the benefit of the animals. After a series of successful interviews, she got the job. Although she admits the decision to leave BCG and get off her career trajectory was "agonizing", she has no regrets. As to making less money, "I still have the lifestyle I want and, importantly, have a job that's emotionally fulfilling".

Under Gilbreath's leadership, the foundation has grown from a staff of two to more than 40 employees and their programs will help over 90,000 pets this year.

Changing careers is seldom without risk and not every story has a happy ending. But research has shown people's main regret is not the things they have done, but the things they haven't.

As you prepare to make your New Year's resolutions and evaluate where you are in life's journey, consider looking for a way to marry your professional training with your passion. Sometimes the road less traveled can be the right one for you.